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USB GPS module tracking with custom application? Answered

I am working on getting some data acquisition integrated with a mini Baja car we're working on, and I would like to be able to track position with GPS, and hopefully speed too, but thats secondary to trying to track position.

I'm going to mount a tablet netbook in the dash of the vehicle; can I use a USB GPS module, something like this: 


My main concern is it looks like these are made to work as Sat Navs with Microsoft Streets and Trips.  Instead, is there a way to just obtain the position data directly with custom software and record it either as a spreadsheet or graph, or even just something like a comma separated text file?

I don't know anything about programming, so I will be finding a programmer to help me out, but I was wondering if this is the best way to go about this or are there gps modules made for this type of application?



All the GPS units I've played with output data in a thing called an NMEA sentence, which is virtually human-readable. The data comes from a "VCP" or virtual com port, so it is pretty easy for someone versed in the art to read.

Personally, I'd get a bluetooth based GPS module, so it can be placed in the roof with perfect sky access.


That sounds like what I'm looking for, thanks! Bluetooth sounds like a good option, especially since I want to try to run other sensors that may be USB only, and the netbook only has 2 USB ports lol. Do you think bluetooth gives a fast enough connection to track location and speed? Are there any models or brands you can recommend that you have used, or at least web sites that sell good ones to choose from?

Remember, GPS resolution isn't that great, even not that they've turned off the scrambling. I'm sure the connection speed will exceed the triangulation accuracy.

Whups. "even now".

(To prevent damage, ensure mind is engaged before operating fingers.)

Steve has it exactly right --
Every gps I've played with/owned connects via a serial comm port (whether via usb virtual port, or my older one which talked directly to serial).

Connect to the port with ANY software capable of talking serial and most commonly you'll get every 1 second a string of data in plain text along the lines of date, time, lat, long, elevation. (may or may not include speed or distance, which is a trivial calculation when you know the included data)

There are LOTS of software solutions to listen to this data and either calculate with it, or store it in a database. Search for "gps nmea parse" and you'll find plenty. There are entire 'carputer' software suites that let you mix and match these types of features.

awesome thanks for the advice! I'll definitely have to play around with the NMEA parsers. I didn't realize it but I guess I'm basically putting together a carputer haha.